First World War Poetry Digital Archive

Asleep

ASLEEP by WILFRED OWEN

Under his helmet, up against his pack, After so many days of work and waking, Sleep took him by the brow and laid him back.

There, in the happy no-time of his sleeping, Death took him by the heart. There heaved a quaking Of the aborted life within him leaping, Then chest and sleepy arms once more fell slack.

And soon the slow, stray blood came creeping From the intruding lead, like ants on track.

Whether his deeper sleep lie shaded by the shaking Of great wings, and the thoughts that hung the stars, High-pillowed on calm pillows of God's making, Above these clouds, these rains, these sleets of lead, And these winds' scimitars, ---Or whether yet his thin and sodden head Confuses more and more with the low mould, His hair being one with the grey grass Of finished fields, and wire-scrags rusty-old, Who knows? Who hopes? Who troubles? Let it pass! He sleeps. He sleeps less tremulous, less cold, Than we who wake, and waking say Alas!

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